I love hanging my washing out. Although I’ve started to enjoy housework more since learning to view it differently as well as finding quicker and better ways to get through it, hanging the laundry out is something I’ve always enjoyed.
Even as a little girl I used to love watching Mum hang the laundry out and would sit up in the apple tree watching it blow in the breeze. There was something incredibly soothing about it. Maybe I’m weird, but I am I bothered?
Because I've always enjoyed hanging the washing out, I've learned a thing or two about it and one thing's for sure, there's more to it than just sticking a few pegs in your t-shirts and sheets and hoping for the best. Unless you want more wrinkles than need be (arghhhh... ironing!) or the dreaded peg marks, you’re gonna need to do it properly.
First let’s look at what you’ll need. The obvious one is of course....
The Washing Line
The best kind of washing line to use is the type that’s strung from one pole to another, often the full length of the garden in your average British terraced house. These offer plenty of room for things like king sized sheets and the washing will get a really good blow. If you generate a lot of laundry but only have a tiny garden, stringing two lines about 2 feet apart will maximise your space. If you don’t want your line on display or in the way when it’s not in use, retractable lines are available.
Whirly gigs – or rotary lines as they’re officially known – are great if you have very limited space or don’t want to have to keep walking the length of your garden (I have to trudge through mud when it’s been wet to use my conventional line) but they don’t let the washing get such a good blow. In fact, the stuff that’s hanging on the inner lines hardly gets to blow at all. Yes, they dry but the wrinkles won’t come out as well as those that get a really good flap. Trust me, I know this. I've had a LOT of different lines in my time all set in various positions (open, semi-sheltered, conventional, big whirly gigs, small whirly gigs, a quadruple strung line - you name it, I've had it!)
Yes, I know you know that you’ll need pegs to hang the washing up with but what pegs are best? The answer to that’s really a matter of preference. Some of us are moving back to wooden pegs because they’re more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts but the drawback with the spring type wooden pegs is that the spring tends to rust in the damp, leaving nasty marks on the washing that can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to remove. The wood also goes black, causing yet more problems with marks on clothes. Dolly pegs are still available (see photo) but they also go black over time. If you’re careful not to leave them out in the rain and check them often, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem though.
Then there are plastic pegs. These come in an array of colours and styles, from the very cheap ones that snap as soon as you sneeze at them to more sturdy types with padding on the clip. I personally like the latter type – they don’t leave such obvious marks on the clothes, are comfortable to use and last a long time (I've had mine for 2 years now and although they've faded, they're still perfectly servicable even though I'm naughty and leave them outside - note to self: must make peg bag to hang in back porch).
The Clothes Prop
If you’re using a conventional strung line then a clothes prop’s worth having. They can easily be made from a long length of thick batten with a V cut into one end (some bang a nail in and use that instead) or you can buy a ready-made prop made from aluminium and plastic. I’ve tried the latter type without much success – they tend to bend under the heavy weight of a full line of wet washing. Wooden props lasts much longer.
The job of the clothes prop is to lift the line higher in the middle, bringing the washing further up so that it stands a better chance of getting a good blow making them especially useful in small gardens with high fences that might act as wind-breakers.
You'll also need a sturdy laundry basket that won't snag your clothes.
HANGING IT OUT
If you want to avoid too many creases and peg marks, it’s important you hang your washing out properly.
First of all, as you take each item out of the washing machine, give it a shake to straighten it out before placing it carefully in your washing basket. Carry the basket out and place it wherever you choose (well don’t put it on top of the flower bed or some other silly place but I didn’t need to tell you that, did I?).
When you remove an item, give it another good shake before pegging it to the line.
How your peg your washing out will make a lot of difference to the finished result so if you’re not happy with t-shirts and tops that hang down at the sides, peg marks in the corners or things stretching out of proportion, take the time to think about where you’re going wrong.
Anything that can be turned inside out should be because that’ll reduce the risk of the sun bleaching the right side. I remember hanging a red t-shirt on the line only to discover that one side had faded considerably during the day. If only the sun had got to both sides....
Tops should always be pegged from underneath the arms (the armpits) so that any peg marks that do occur will be pretty much hidden. The warmth under your arms will also help quickly eliminate them once they’re worn.
Shirts and blouses can be hung on hangers although I find pegging them from the bottom hem works well enough.
Towels should be pegged with each top corner right next to each other. That way they’ll rub against themselves as they flap and feel softer to use.
Double sheets, duvet covers and the likes can be folded over the line but try not to fold them vertically otherwise they won’t blow as well and may not dry evenly. Single bedding can usually be hung lengthways without folding.
Unless they’re made of flimsy fabric, try to avoid sharing pegs between two items. Not only will they be more likely to get peg marks, they’re also more likely to loosen in the breeze and disappear into next-door’s garden!
TAKING IT DOWN
As you take down an item, give it another shake and a snap and then fold it before putting it in the basket. Even if it’s just a rough fold, it’s better than nothing because you can always refold properly once you get inside (but do it straight away or the creases will be back and do try to stop the cat from making a bed in it).
We all know that we should be reducing our energy usage so hanging the washing outside instead of using a tumble dryer is both a cheaper and more earth-friendly choice. Apparently, tumble dryers are the most power hungry appliances we have in our homes using twice the amount of electricity as a washing machine, and chuck out around 1.8 kilos of CO2 during every cycle!
The clothes smell fresher when they’re hung out too, so unless you’re physically unable to use a line (or even a clothes horse on a balcony), using the tumbler during dry, mild weather just isn’t a good choice.